Some Plants Want to be Eaten.

Animals run & cry when attacked by predators. But plants have adapted to appeal to animals and birds that spread their seeds.

Over millions of years, these plants have developed ways to communicate with animals through fruits, new research suggests, saying something like “choose me.” With traits evolved to match each animal’s sensory capacities or physical abilities, fruits can signal dinner time, and further their plant’s survival as a species.

Red berries and orange figs hang in the rain forest’s canopy. They are waiting for monkeys, apes or birds to scan the foliage, eat the ripe fruit and either spit or defecate seeds far from their sources, spreading their next generation to a new location.

In the similarly mountainous rain forests of Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park, yellow berries or fragrant, green figs await lemurs. They will search the forest all night for their feast, later scattering the seeds.

Kim Valenta, an evolutionary ecologist at Duke University and her colleague Omer Nevo, an evolutionary ecologist, are working to understand how plants have adapted to appeal to animals that spread their seeds.

The monkeys and apes in Uganda have tricolour vision like humans, and the birds have even better vision. But most lemurs in Madagascar can only see the blue-yellow spectrum and rely more on their strong senses of smell.

So the researchers collected ripe and unripe fruits and foliage and analyzed their colors with a spectrometer. They found the colors of each fruit were optimised against their natural backdrops to meet the demands of the visual systems of their primary seed dispersers. In Uganda, fruits contrasting with foliage in colors on the red-green spectrum popped for birds and monkeys whose eyes can see them. But in Madagascar, fruit with blue-yellow contrasts could be best detected by red-green colorblind lemurs (and some birds, too). Interactions like these remind us that plants are active members of a complicated ecosystem. 

India’s Ancient Belief

In India spiritualists belonging to different religions recommend fasting on important dates. Not consuming anything (not even water) is recommended, while those who cannot follow such rules are allowed to eat fruits. But consumption of grains is not allowed in fasting. The reason is that eating grains creates ‘Karma’ while eating fruits does not.

The next question is why?

This is because fruits are a 'gift' from plants and trees, while consumption of grain is against the ‘will’ of plants and is ‘snatching’.

Scientists are only beginning to understand how much plants and animals mean to one another.

 ** Reference: The Times Of India - Delhi eEdition, 10/11/2018

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